iPhone Life magazine

An iPhone Survival Kit

These iPhone apps and accessories will help you survive major or minor natural disasters

Owners of the iPhone appreciate its easy-to-use interface, functional Web browser, and the variety of apps available through iTunes, but one family from Carbondale, Illinois has a more important reason to love it. Earlier this year, Christine, Alan, Jordan and Claire Rankin had to endure some very harsh, Midwestern weather, which included high-speed winds, torrential rain, and baseball-sized hail. It damaged their home, and left the Rankin’s without power for over a week. I spoke with Christine afterwards, and she shared with me how the iPhone helped them get through this natural disaster.

“Our iPhones helped us in so many ways… Information is the key in making a natural disaster less stressful. The iPhone helped us track incoming weather patterns, and access information about our personal possessions for insurance claims. The entertainment capabilities of the iPhone helped keep us sane, and its phone, e-mail, and Web browser allowed us to stay in touch with family and friends.”

This article explores some items to include in your “iPhone Survival Kit.” Some of these apps were used by the Rankin family, but I also selected a few others from the App Store which may prove helpful in the event of an emergency. I also mention a few accessories that would come in handy if the power goes out.

Stay in touch & relieve boredom

Christine also mentioned that the Twitter and AIM applications helped her family stay in touch with family and friends, not only across town, but around the world. She talked about the importance of the iPhone’s video capabilities to help deal with eight days of boredom—especially for the kids. When they had exhausted all the videos stored on the iPhone, they relied on the TV.com app to stream television shows over the AT&T 3G network.

A few vital accessories for your survival kit

Of course, you have to have power to use an iPhone, and even a fully-charged battery won’t last 8 days with this kind of use. If the electricity is out in your home, you still have a power source in your garage in the form of your car or truck. Use a power adapter/charger designed for the vehicle’s cigarette lighter to recharge your iPhone. They are available through Apple’s Web site or a variety of third-party vendors. You could also get a power inverter to convert the car’s 12 volt DC current to 110 AC. This would allow you to charge the iPhone or a laptop computer using the power adapter that came with them. The Rankin’s used all these methods to power their iPhones. Christine mentioned that if they drove their car around a bit while charging their phones, they charged a bit faster.

Finally, here’s a tip that has nothing to do with the iPhone, but is no less important. If the power goes down in your town, the ATM machines won’t work. Store some cash in a lock box somewhere in your home.

Very few people bought an iPhone with a disaster in mind. However, the apps described in this article can turn it into a powerful, survival device. I want to thank the Rankin family for sharing their story with iPhone Life readers. I hope that their experience will make it easier for other iPhone owners to deal with unexpected natural disasters.


WeatherBug1WeatherBug2Christine spoke about WeatherBug. “I believe that you should have information on when the storm will reach you. It is very important to determine how much time you have to get last minute items in order. The app that I find most useful for this is WeatherBug...”

WeatherBug allows users to keep on top of current conditions.

The free version of the program will suffice for the purpose of disaster preparation. It provides detailed weather information for up to 10 locations. The information includes current conditions, 7 day forecasts, up to 5 live cam shots per location, and most importantly, detailed radar maps showing a storm’s progress.




  • Free (Elite version also available)
  • AWS Convergence Technologies, Inc
  • weatherbug.com



iOwniOwnWith storms comes property damage, and with property damage come insurance claims. Imagine all your possessions gone and the hassle of making insurance claims on your home, automobiles, and more. When you place a claim, you need to give details about your possessions. iOwn makes that easy and accurate. It lets you store information about all of your possessions, including serial numbers, monetary values, and photos. It allows you to organize this information in a variety of ways. For example, you can list it by room, storage location, items, and more. iOwn even provides a free, online backup of your inventory.

iOwn lets you keep an inventory of all your possessions





Dial 0

DialZeroOnce you have a list of the items you want to claim, the next step is to contact your insurance company. You’ll probably need to talk to a representative to make the claim, but first you have to navigate through an annoying, automated phone system. To quote Christine, “Who wants to navigate through a bunch of menus when you’re in that situation?” This is when Dial 0 can help.

Dial Zero lets you bypass automated 
systems and talk to a person.

This app provides you with a number that will connect you directly to a customer service representative. If such a number is not available, the app will tell you which keys to push after you’ve dial in, to connect you to a person. For example, the screenshot shown gives you Allstate’s 800 number and instructions on how to get a representative by pressing the # key four times. This makes it easier to connect with an agent, but remember that with natural disasters, hoards of people are calling. You may still have to wait in a phone queue to be connected.



Dial 0

State Farm Pocket Agent

State Farm Pocket AgentState Farm’s free app makes it easy for their auto insurance customers to file a claim directly from their iPhone. No phone call is involved and you don’t have to talk to an adjuster. Just open the app, tap on “Submit an Auto Claim,” and a checklist will guide you through the process. Once you enter your policy number, the rest of the policy information is entered automatically. All you have to do is fill out the accident details: who was driving, which car, where the accident took place, and what damage occurred. You can even take pictures of the damage and submit them—all from your iPhone. Ask your insurance company if they have something like this.





State Farm Pocket Agent


iEmergencyiEmergencyMy mother is a registered nurse and she mentioned that people rarely think about how they would replace their medications if a natural disaster were to hit. Fortunately, there is a solution for that. iEmergency lets you record personal health-related and insurance information, as well as emergency contact numbers. You can specify whom to contact in case of emergency, hospital preference, as well as physicians’ names and numbers. You can also record the dosage and frequency of your medications and any allergies you have. If a disaster strikes or you run out of medicine, you’ve got the information you need to replace it. Make sure you put the icon for this program on your home page to make it easy to find.

Keep track of all your medical information with iEmergency